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Weekly Trader’s Outlook

Tug-o-war between vaccine and surging virus cases keeps markets in check.

Note: So that Nate and I can both enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday with our families, there will be no Weekly Trader’s Outlook published on Friday 11/27/20

Follow me on Twitter @RandyAFrederick. I’ll tweet interesting observations about volatility, put/call ratios, technical signals, economics, option block trades and other unusual activity.

Weekly Market Review:

Earnings Summary

Q3 earnings season is nearly over. With 468 (94%) of the companies in the S&P 500 reporting results, below are the beat rates for Q3 relative to the final results from recent quarters.

Quarter EPS beats        Rev beats

Q3 ‘20            84%                 73%

Q2 ‘20               85%                  65%

Q1 ‘20               65%                  59%

Q4 ’19               74%                  64%     

Q3 ‘19               78%                  58%

Q2 ‘19               76%                  56%

Q1 ‘19               77%                  57%

Q4 ’18               73%                  60%     

Q3 ’18               82%                  61%     

Q2 ‘18               84%                  72%

Q1 ‘18               81%                  74%

Q4 ’17               78%                  76%     

Q3 ’17               78%                  68%     

Q2 ‘17               77%                  69%

Q1 ’17               78%                  63%

Q4 ’16               73%                  53%

Q3 ‘16               72%                  55%

Q2 ‘16               72%                  53%

Q1 ’16               72%                  52%

Average            76%                  62%

From a growth standpoint, Q3 EPS has been -8.0% y/o/y; better than the analysts’ expectation of -21.0% when the quarter ended. Q3 revenue has been -1.5% y/o/y. This compares to -30.6% and -9.3% respectively in all of Q2. Below are some of the higher-profile companies that reported earnings this week.  

Earnings Recap

Symbol            Actual  Estimate

TSN                 1.81      1.19

KSS                 0.01      -0.44

HD                   3.18      3.05

WMT                1.34      1.18

LOW                 1.98      2.00

TGT                  2.79      1.60

TJX                  0.71      0.40

NVDA               2.91      2.58

LB                     1.13      0.11

M                     -0.19     -0.79

INTU                0.94      0.39

ROST               0.37      0.61

WDAY              0.86      0.67

WSM                2.56      1.52

Economics Recap

Better (or higher) than expected:

  • Industrial Production for Oct: +1.1% vs. +1.0% est
  • Capacity Utilization for Oct: 72.8% vs. 72.3% est
  • Business Inventories for Sep: +0.7% vs. +0.6% est
  • NAHB Housing Market Index for Nov: 90 vs. 85 est
  • Housing Starts for Oct: 1.530M vs. 1.445M est
  • Existing Home Sales for Oct: 6.85M vs. 6.47M est

On Target:

  • Export Prices for Oct: +0.2% vs. +0.2% est
  • Leading Economic Indicators for Oct: +0.7% vs. +0.7% est

Worse (or lower) than expected:

  • Retail Sales for Oct: +0.3% vs. +0.5% est
  • Import Prices for Oct: -0.1% vs. 0.0% est
  • Building Permits for Oct: 1.545M vs. 1.550M est
  • Initial (weekly) Jobless Claims: 742k vs. 700k est

This was a heavy week for economic data. At 742k, Initial Jobless Claims came in above the 700k estimate, and above last week’s 711k level. Claims have leveled off but are still averaging 742k over the past 4 weeks. Aggregate initial jobless claims over the past 35 weeks (since the virus hit) exceed 68M and continuing claims still exceed 6.3M (was 1.7M pre-virus).   


Source: Schwab Center for Financial Research

Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Market Performance YTD

Here is the 2020 YTD (versus 2019 full-year) performance of the market broken down by the 11 market sectors (as of the close on 11/19/20):

                                                            2020 YTD                      2019 Final

  1. Info Tech                                  +32.3%                         +48.0%
  2. Consumer Disc                         +26.7%                         +26.2%
  3. Communications Svc              +16.9%                         +30.9%
  4. Materials                                   +13.6%                         +21.9%
  5. Industrials                                 +7.3%                           +26.8%
  6. Healthcare                                 +6.8%                           +18.7%
  7. Cons Staples                             +6.2%                           +24.0%
  8. Utilities                                      -2.1%                            +22.2%
  9. Real Estate                                -4.3%                            +24.9%
  10. Financials                                  -11.1%                          +29.2%
  11. Energy                                       -41.1%                          +7.6%

Source: Bloomberg L.P.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Here is the 2020 YTD (versus 2019 full-year) performance of the major U.S. equity indices (as of the close on 11/19/20):

                                                            2020 YTD                      2019 Final

  • S&P 500 (SPX)                             +10.9%                         +28.9%
  • Nasdaq Composite (COMPX)    +32.7%                         +35.2%
  • Dow Industrials (DJI)                 +3.3%                           +22.3%
  • Russell 2000 (RUT)                    +7.0%                           +23.7%


Two weeks ago I stated that, “I expect the SPX to reach a new closing high (above 3,580) very soon”. Last week I stated, “I continue to believe a new high is imminent”. That new high was indeed reached on Monday 11/16. Now, if the current sideways, volatile pattern continues as expected (discussed in the next session below) the SPX may struggle to make any meaningful progress over the next few weeks.

The 50-day simple moving average (SMA) of 3,427 continues as the likely downside support, but upside resistance is now at the new high (3,626). As I mentioned last week, technicians may be watching the “Triple Top”, though that is unlikely to become worrisome unless/until the SPX breaks down below the lower support level (3,231) again, which also happens to be the YTD +/- level. 


Source: StreetSmart Edge®

Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

2009 SPX same as 2020 SPX

As you can see below, the 2009 roadmap continues to be an astounding forecast of where the SPX may be headed in 2020. Last week Friday (11/13) I stated, “Will the next move be higher? The map implies about +2% over the next 2 to 3 sessions. After that however, it also implies a volatile sideways market over the subsequent 4 weeks”.

To illustrate just how accurate those statements were, consider the following:

  • Total gains over the next 2 sessions (11/13 & 11/16): +2.54%
  • Total losses over the subsequent 2 sessions (11/17 & 11/18): -1.63%
  • The intraday range was 28 points on 11/16, 35 points on 11/17, 52 points on 11/18 and 42 points on 11/19

 I expect this pattern of choppy waters to continue for a few more weeks, after which I think we could see a final year-end rally that might push the SPX toward my year-end target of around 3,700.


Source: Schwab Center for Financial Research

Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Option Volumes:

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, November option volume is averaging 33.3M contracts per day. That is above the October level of 28.9M contracts per day and well above the November 2019 level of 19.8M contracts per day. For comparison purposes, at 31.9M contracts per day, September 2020 was the highest volume month ever. While November is on pace to set a new record, volume during Thanksgiving week is usually low, so it may or may not happen.

Open Interest:

OI Change:

In reviewing Cboe open interest (OI) data (where greater than 95% of the index activity occurs), I observed the following changes over the past week:

In reviewing VIX data for the past week I observed the following:

  • VIX call OI was -22.4%              
  • VIX put OI was -24.7%              

These sharp declines are the result of the November monthly contract expiration on Wednesday (11/18) and are therefore N/A this week.    

In reviewing SPX data for the past week I observed the following:

  • SPX call OI was +1.5%
  • SPX put OI was +2.4%             

These changes reflect a small bias toward the put side, so I see them as moderately bearish for the market this week.  

In reviewing Exchange Traded Products (ETP) data (which includes SPY, QQQ, DIA & IWM) for the past week, I observed the following:

  • ETP call OI was +3.2%             
  • ETP put OI was +2.7%              

These changes reflect a very small bias toward the call side, so I see them as moderately bullish for the market this week.  

Combining VIX, SPX & ETP data this week, overall I see the Index/ETP OI Change as neutral in the near-term.

In reviewing Cboe Equity Option data (where about 35% of all option activity occurs) for the past week I observed the following:

  • Equity call OI was +3.0%                      
  • Equity put OI was +3.4%                      

These changes reflect an insignificant bias toward the put side, so I see the Equity OI Change as neutral in the near-term.

OI Participation

Index OI Participation is -19.8% versus 2019 levels, so I see it as bearish in the long-term.

Equity/ETF OI Participation is +44.3% versus 2019 levels, so I see it as bullish in the long-term.

As retail participants continue to grow in the options markets, Equity/ETF OI Participation exceeded 400M contracts on Thursday (11/19) for the first time ever!

Open Interest Put/Call Ratios (OIPCR):

The VIX OIPCR is down 4 ticks to 1.16 versus 1.20 last week. At this time, VIX options traders are holding (long or short) 116 puts for every 100 calls. Historically, this ratio tends to move in the same direction as the VIX index, so this downtick would normally be somewhat surprising given the VIX index was essentially unchanged; +0.01 (0.0%) through Thursday (11/19). However, put/call ratios tend to get a bit skewed around expiration, so I’m going to attribute this larger than normal move to the November monthly contract expiration on Wednesday (11/18). At the risk of overstating the impact of expiration, I see the VIX OIPCR as neutral in the very near-term for the markets. This ratio remains well above the 200-day SMA of 0.87, so I see it as moderately bullish in the long-term.

The SPX OIPCR is up 2 ticks to 1.93 versus 1.91 last week. Not only is this above the 200-day SMA of 1.82, it is another new 8-month high. This ratio tends to move in the same direction as the SPX, so the fact that it has risen this week when the SPX has fallen 3.28 points (-0.1%) through Thursday (11/19) is a bit surprising. As a result, it likely indicates that SPX option traders (who are almost entirely institutional) remain concerned that perhaps the SPX is a bit topped out at the moment. Therefore, I see the SPX OIPCR as moderately bearish in the near-term for the market. Given that this ratio was above 2.20 for all of January and February I see it as still neutral in the long-term.

The normally stable Equity OIPCR is unchanged at 0.84 versus 0.84 last week. While this ratio is now a few ticks higher than its recent historically low level, I see the Equity OIPCR as still moderately bullish in the near-term for the market. Since it remains below the 200-day SMA of 0.90, I see it as moderately bullish in the long-term.

Cboe Volume Put/Call Ratios (VPCR):

The Cboe VIX VPCR has moved from moderately bullish to neutral this week. The 0.69 reading on Thursday (11/19) was neutral and the current reading of 0.57 as I’m writing this (mid-day Friday 11/20) is neutral. Therefore I see it as neutral in the very near-term.

The Cboe SPX VPCR has been mostly neutral this week. The 1.46 reading on Thursday (11/19) was neutral but the current reading of 2.04 as I’m writing this (mid-day Friday 11/20) is moderately bearish. While intraday levels tend to decline as the day goes on, I see it as moderately bearish in the very near-term. With a 5-day average of 1.57 versus 1.83 last week, it is now neutral in the long-term.

The Cboe Equity VPCR has been moderately bullish this week. The 0.46 reading on Thursday (11/19) was moderately bullish and the current reading of 0.52 as I’m writing this (mid-day Friday 11/20) is moderately bullish. While this ratio tends to fall as the day progresses, I see it as moderately bullish in the very near-term. With a 5-day moving average of 0.46 versus 0.47 last week, it is moderately bullish in the long-term.

Since volume based put/call ratios are very reactive and very short-term in nature, near-term usually means just a day or two, while long-term is more like a week.

ISE Retail Sentiment Index (ISEE):

The ISEE has closed above 100 in 4 of the last 5 sessions. Since this gauge measures only retail opening activity and it is actually a call/put indicator, a level above 100 means that retail option traders on the ISE are trading fewer puts than calls. While the intraday level at the time of this writing is 99, I see the ISEE as moderately bullish in the near-term. Since this ratio has now been above 100 in 10 of the last 13 sessions, I see the ISEE as moderately bullish in the long-term.

OCC Volume Put/Call Ratios (VPCR):

The OCC Index VPCR has moved from bearish (>1.40) to moderately bearish (>1.10) this week. As a result, I see it as moderately bearish in the near-term. It has also been bearish or moderately bearish for 28 straight sessions, so I see it as moderately bearish in the long-term.

The OCC Equity VPCR has been bullish (<0.63) all week. Therefore, I see it as bullish in the near-term. Since this ratio has been either bullish or moderately for 14 straight sessions, I see it as moderately bullish in the long-term.


Cboe Volatility Index (VIX)

At the time of this writing (mid-day Friday 11/20), the VIX is down about a half point in the mid-22 range. At its current level, the VIX is implying intraday moves in the SPX of about 42 points per day. The 20-day historical volatility is 140% this week versus 141% last week. The VIX remains well above its long-term mode (12.42) and above its long-term average (19.51). With both the SPX and the VIX virtually unchanged this week, I see the VIX as neutral in the very near-term for the equity markets. Additionally, though it remains slightly above its long-term average, I see it as neutral in the long-term.

On a week-over-week basis, VIX call prices are slightly higher and VIX put prices are slightly lower. At +96 versus +38 last week, the VIX IV Gap (the average IV of VIX calls less the average IV of VIX puts) has increased a bit. While it is a contrarian indicator, at this level it is neutral in the very near-term. Call prices remain relatively flat, whereas put prices continue to trend modestly lower. Therefore I see it as neutral in the long-term.

Keep in mind, this is not only a contrarian indicator most of the time, it tends to be one of the earliest and shortest-term indicators I discuss in this report, so it can also change directions very quickly.

VIX Futures

At the moment, the difference between the sum of the 3rd and 4th month futures and the 1st and 2nd month futures is 1.60 versus 3.00 last week. This decrease is mostly due to the November monthly contract expiration on Wednesday (11/18), as the new near-term contracts are priced above the expiring ones.        

As of this writing (mid-day Friday 11/20), the nearest VIX futures contract (which expires on 11/24) was trading at 23.25; less than a point above the spot VIX level of 22.50. Adjusting this price for the risk premium factor (which takes into account the time until expiration), the Risk Premium Adjusted Price (RPAP) is 22.88; very close to the spot price.

With an adjusted level that is very close to the spot price, futures traders are indicating that they believe the VIX is likely to remain fairly close to its current level between now and next Wednesday. Therefore, I see VIX futures as neutral in the near-term for the market. The RPAPs of the next two closest monthly futures contracts are 22.35 and 22.04 respectively. With the RPAPs of the further-dated contracts both fairly close to the spot price, I see VIX futures as neutral in the long-term for the SPX.

Since VIX futures are typically much less reactive to current market conditions than the VIX index, near-term for VIX futures usually means a few days, while long-term means a couple of weeks.

With the market sharply higher and the VIX sharply lower, the VIX Hedging Effectiveness this week is Moderate in the near-term. At the moment, this means that options on the VIX (and possibly other volatility-related products) are showing rather modest sensitivity to market volatility, and may be only slightly effective as hedging tools in the very near-term. VIX Hedging Effectiveness is Good in the long-term.

VIX Hedging Effectiveness is a manner of measuring the magnitude of VIX moves relative to the magnitude of SPX moves in the opposite direction. When the VIX is highly reactive, VIX related products can serve as potentially effective hedging tools, when the VIX is not very reactive, traditional hedging techniques may be a better choice.

Global Review/Outlook:


This week, China sold a $4B euro-denominated bond offering at record low yields. The 5-year Government bonds yielded -0.152%, the first negative yield ever for China, 10-year bonds yielded 0.318% and 15-year bonds yielded 0.664%.  

Separately, the Governor of Tokyo this week, raised the city’s COVID-19 alert level to its highest of 4 levels, after seeing daily new cases exceed 500 for the first time. South Korea is reviewing its alert level after seeing about 200 new cases per day, and Russia reported more than 23k cases in a single day, prompting the closure of many bars and restaurants.

North America

The US reported 187k new cases of the coronavirus on Thursday (11/19) alone; a new single-day record. Additionally, there are currently more than 80k patients hospitalized; also a new single-day record. Ohio, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine and California have added new restrictions or curfews, and New York City just issued an order for all schools to be 100% virtual again. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) has asked everyone not to travel for Thanksgiving.

The 5 states with the fastest growing coronavirus infection rates this week are: VT, WA, NH, DC and NY. This week only 1 state (MS) has a reproduction rate below 1.0 (unchanged from 1 last week). While the populations of North Dakota and South Dakota are quite small (less than 1M total residents each), they have the highest per capita rates of infections in the country; 9% and 7.8% respectively.

As you can see in the table below, Texas and California have both surpassed 1M cumulative cases each, and COVID-19 cases worldwide now exceed 57M (up from 52M last week) of which the US accounts for over 11.7M or 21% (up from 20% last week) even though the US only accounts for about 4.3% of the world’s population. At >252k, the US accounts for 19% of all global deaths (unchanged from 19% last week).


Source: Johns Hopkins University and other sources; accuracy not guaranteed


The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said it is coordinating with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to synchronize assessment and approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. Approval could come as early as mid-December, which would allow for distribution in both the US and the Eurozone at the same time.


Brazil, which has about 2.8% of the world’s population, represents 10% of the global cases total (down from 11% last week). India, which has about 18% of the world’s population, has 16% (down from 17% last week) and Russia, which has less than 2% of the world’s population, has 4% (unchanged from 4% last week).  

Economic reports for next week:

Mon 11/23


Tue 11/24

Case-Shiller Home Price Index for Sep – This index measures the change in the average prices of single-family, residential real estate across a broad section of 20 major cities in the US.

Conference Board Consumer Confidence for Nov – There are several other confidence measures, such as the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment, and they don’t always agree. Gasoline prices and stock market performance tend to have the biggest impact on these measures.  

Wed 11/25

Durable Goods Orders for Oct – This is a key measure of consumer and industrial spending trends and often causes market swings if it misses estimates.

GDP for Q3 – This is the second estimate (Preliminary) for Q3 and the consensus is that GDP will be +33.1%. You’ll recall that the first (Advance) report in Q3 also showed +33.1%. 

Personal Consumption Expenditures (Core PCE) for Oct – PCE includes durable goods and nondurable goods which are directly influenced by the retail sales reports and services. This is the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge.

Personal Income & Spending for OctThese reports use data from the monthly employment report to gauge income from wages and salaries. Personal income is also sometimes used to forecast future consumer spending.

New Home Sales for Oct – This report measures sales activity of newly constructed homes and other single family dwellings, and is generally considered less important than building permits since it is more of a trailing report.

University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment for Nov – This is the Final report for Nov. At 77.0, the mid-month report was down from 81.8 the prior month.

Initial Jobless Claims - For the week ending 11/14/20, claims were up 31k after being down 46k the prior week. The 4-week moving average now stands at 742k, down 12k from the prior week. With this decrease, the 4-week moving average is now 5,048k below the highest level on record (5.790M), which occurred on 4/18/20.

Thu 11/26

Happy Thanksgiving! - None

Fri 11/27


Interest Rates:

Since the Fed cut interest rates essentially to zero back on March 15, 2020 there is virtually no chance of any changes in the foreseeable future, so I am suspending the interest rate section indefinitely.


In one corner we have the near-term surge in coronavirus cases and short-term traders. In the other corner we have the positive vaccine news and longer-term investors. While some very modest gains are possible, indications are that this epic tug-o-war will likely continue into next week.

Bottom Line:

With the SPX only -0.1% through Thursday (11/19) it’s safe to say that last week’s outlook of Neutral was on target. However, with the VIX virtually unchanged, the secondary outlook of Volatile was not. As you can see below, there were a few more bullish changes than bearish changes this week, and while the overall outlook is fairly neutral, it does show a bit more green than purple. As a result, the outlook for next week is Moderately Bullish. And while I also expect volatility to calm down a bit more, I’m not sure how much more downside there is in the VIX in the near-term, so I’ll leave that alone for now.


Past performance is no guarantee of future results.


OI = Open Interest

OIPCR = Open Interest Put/Call Ratio

VPCR = Volume Put/Call Ratio

IV = Implied Volatility

+ means this indicator has changed in a bullish direction from the prior posting.

– means this indicator has changed in a bearish direction from the prior posting.

+/ – means this indicator has changed bi-directionally; i.e. last week was either Volatile, N/A or Breakout .

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Important Disclosures:

Options carry a high level of risk and are not suitable for all investors. Certain requirements must be met to trade options through Schwab. With long options, investors may lose 100% of funds invested. Multiple leg options strategies will involve multiple commissions. Protective puts increase your cost basis in the underlying security. Please read the options disclosure document titled "Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options."

All stock and option symbols and market data shown above are for illustrative purposes only and are not a recommendation, offer to sell, or a solicitation of an offer to buy any security. Past performance should not be construed as indicative of future results.

Multi-leg options strategies will involve multiple commissions. Spread trading must be done in a margin account. Covered calls provide downside protection only to the extent of the premium received and limit upside potential to the strike price plus premium received. Commissions, taxes and transaction costs are not included in the examples used in this discussion, but can affect final outcome and should be considered. Please contact a tax advisor for the tax implications involved in these strategies.

Schwab does not recommend the use of technical analysis as a sole means of investment research. The information presented does not consider your particular investment objectives or financial situation (including taxes), and does not make personalized recommendations.

Please note that this content was created as of the specific date indicated and reflects the author’s views as of that date. It will be kept solely for historical purposes, and the author's opinions may change, without notice, in reaction to shifting economic, business, and other conditions. Indexes are unmanaged, do not incur management fees, costs and expenses, and cannot be invested in directly. Any opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice. 

Please contact a tax advisor for the tax implications involved in the strategies referenced in this article. Supporting documentation for any claims or statistical information is available upon request. Futures trading carries a high level of risk and is not suitable for all investors. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Investing involves risks, including loss of principal. Hedging and protective strategies generally involve additional costs and do not assure a profit or guarantee against loss. Data contained herein from third party providers is obtained from what are considered reliable sources. However, its accuracy, completeness or reliability cannot be guaranteed.

All references to subjects (securities, indexes, futures contracts, and options contracts) were derived based on screens conducted by the writer for certain anomalous activity such as volumes, volatility and other related market data. As needed for brevity, the writer may have applied discretion when choosing among screen outputs for inclusion. Such discretion may have been based on news reports or other considerations of public interest. The views or opinions are those of the writer, and are subject to change without notice. All referenced subjects were chosen for illustrative purposes only and should not be considered recommendations, offers to sell, or solicitations of offers to purchase.

Commodity-related products carry a high level of risk and are not suitable for all investors. Commodity-related products may be extremely volatile, illiquid and can be significantly affected by underlying commodity prices, world events, import controls, worldwide competition, government regulations, and economic conditions. The policy analysis provided by the Charles Schwab & Co., Inc., does not constitute and should not be interpreted as an endorsement of any political party.

The information provided here is for general informational purposes only. The investment strategies mentioned here may not be suitable for everyone. Each investor needs to review an investment strategy for his or her own particular situation before making any investment decision.

The Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS) was developed by and is the exclusive property of Morgan Stanley Capital International Inc. (MSCI) and Standard & Poor's. GICS is a service mark of MSCI and S&P and has been licensed for use by Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. Index used for the 11 market sectors. 

The S&P 500 Index is a market-capitalization-weighted index comprising 500 widely traded stocks chosen for market size, liquidity and industry group representation. The NASDAQ Composite Index is a broad-based market-capitalization weighted index of 2,630 stocks in all three NASDAQ tiers: Global Select, Global Market and Capital Market. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted index of 30 stocks compiled by Dow Jones as a way to gauge the performance of the industrial component of America’s stock markets. The Russell 2000 Index is a market-capitalization-weighted index comprised of the smallest 2000 companies in the Russell 3000 Index, representing approximately 8% of the Russell 3000 total market capitalization.

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